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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Leonard Earl Johnson (photo credit Frank Parsley) covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), and the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for ConsumerAffairs.com. He is a contributor to Gambit Weekly, New Orleans Magazine, SCAT, Baton Rouge Advocate, Advocate Magazine, The Times-Picayune, Country Roads Magazine, Palm Springs Newswire and the anthologies: FRENCH QUARTER FICTION (Light of New Orleans Publishing), LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), LIFE IN THE WAKE (NOLAfuges.com), and more. Johnson is a former Merchant Seaman, and columnist at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans; and African-American Village. Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland. Winner of the Press Club of New Orleans Award for Excellence, 1991, and given the Key to The City and a Certificate of Appreciation from the New Orleans City Council for a Gambit Weekly story on murder in the French Quarter.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Easter On River of Bourbon Street / April 2020


          Each Easter for several years we have reprinted 
We are doing so again this year, but with the caveat of the COVID-19 Virus watching over our shoulder
 humming Mozart's Requiem.

Damn Yankee Puritans, please

 Dry land hypocrites, know-nothings 

chipping away at our civic judgement to host millions during Carnival.    

Such numbers somberly crowded your subways and buses every day, did they not? 

And they died same as we did, 

but without the party. 
~ LEJ.org✍


β€œThe Fight Between Carnival and Lent” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525-1569)

Here we go again.

"There will always be a New Orleans, 
and some bluenose wagging a finger at it." 
~ L. A. Norma


LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp

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April 2020

Easter On The River of Bourbon Street,

with the Caveat of  COVID-19 Virus 

BY  Leonard Earl Johnson
Β© 2020, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved


Ellis Marsalis, Jr.

~ November 14, 1934 - April 1, 2020 ~

Pianist, educator, celebrated member of the New Orleans parade, 

in New Orleans, at age 85, of pneumonia / COVID-19


Spring in New Orleans,                       Photo-credit:   Jessica Reeves Tullos

Long ago, L. A. Norma and I left the witch-hat-towers of Saint Louis Cathedral headed for the soaring balconies of Bourbon Street. 

There we were lifted, on the chaliced wings of whiskey served from temporal cathedrals bearing names like Oz and Bourbon Street Pub. 

There are bars named Oz and Pub on many streets in this World, but there is only one Bourbon Street. It is in New Orleans' French Quarter, and it flows like the Mississippi River towards Big Swamp City's first Faubourgs

It is there, just inside Faubourg Marigny, where the street's name changes to Pauger, after Adrien de Pauger, the French engineer who designed the colonial street grid of New Orleans ~ in use today.

These two illustrious dance halls flank Bourbon Street ~ shoulder to shoulder ~ where it intersects Rue Saint Ann.  Once populated exclusively by gay men. Then gay women and gay men.  They are today ~ like King Cakes ~ made of most anything.  Especially in Spring when balcony seating opens.

They stand watch at a demarcation point between Reader's Digest- tourists ebbing back up towards Canal Street; and those tourists yearning to venture further into the literary mysteries of the gentrified Faubourgs

We found a table on the balcony above the Pub's swinging shingle.  And watched.
Courtesy of French Quarter Festivals 

The masses raised their arms in jubilation of Christ's resurrection ~ or for beads!

This day, touched by Easter's spirit and the elfin Mr. Booze, I saw Jesus walking down this famed street of Sin. 

He wore a crown of thorns over His long black hair. He wore sandals, too, and was naked save for a loincloth cut like the one in the paintings. He was thin and looked like He might be Filipino, but mostly He looked like Jesus. Everyone on the balcony thought so.

True to The Book
He was slumming with the local rabble. And reveling in their Easter experience. As were they in His.

"Well, theirs was a damn sight better'n His," L. A. Norma said, tapping a finger along the silver figure hanging by tiny silver nails from a crucifix hanging around her neck. A ringed crown of thorns ~ it oddly sculpted from gold more precious than silver ~ sat on the little silver Head. 

Norma lifted her whiskey, inhaled from her cigarette, exhaled a plume of smoke larger than her head, and said, "Skip the crucifixion, forget fasting, go straight for the Resurrection!"

We all laughed ~ glowing in the clear and righteous wonder of her thought. 

A few years back, a few blocks up the street, Chris Owens, an elderly Bourbon Street dancer with her own club, and mega staying power, conducted her own Easter Parade. Tall and seemingly leading the crowd was David Duke. A brass band made up of midgets played. Elder ladies of the snatched-bodies cult, and a half dozen or so young bunnies in pastel furs marched and rode atop pedicabs and Cadillacs. The bunnies threw underpants to the crowd.

Among such a human eddy no one would usually give notice to a walking Jesus.  But this day, a tourist Family standing against the downstream wall of Pete Fountain's (today's Oz) did. 

They were directly across the street from where we sat. The Father watched wide-eyed. The Girl, about seventeen, waved up to us. The pubescent Son giggled and hugged his Mother. Then, along came Jesus headed straight for them! 

The tourist Mother looked offended. She gathered her brood and paddled them off down the street. Jesus did not seem bothered by their departure."After all," Norma said, "He wrote the book on forgiveness."

The Pope appeared on the balcony directly above them. He stood dressed, head-to-toe, in yellow and white satin. He blessed all who passed beneath him, and tossed beads at the tourist Family as they scurried away.  He looked across Bourbon Street and blessed us, too. We waved, and he motioned us over. We crossed the street and took our seats at the Pope's table.

We looked back at the Bourbon Pub balcony. The Pope, ever so wise, said, "You cannot see yourself on the balcony you have just left." We had all had a lot to drink. The Pope handed out Wild Turkey and water. "Holy Water, from The Holy River," he said.

Three real nuns, in old-fashioned black-and-white habits, came trotting down Rue Saint Ann ~ on their return from a later mass. They passed our intersection headed towards Cathedral School. The sea of sinners parted. We joined the cheering. 

 "What would they think of seeing Jesus?" L. A. Norma asked of no one in particular. She leaned way over the balcony rail and yelled to the crowd below for Carnival beads. A photographer looked up and took her picture. I yelled down asking if he had seen Jesus. "No!" he shouted back. Would he like to? "Yes, of course, yes!"

The Pope lay his hands on my shoulders, and said,"Watch that woman, do not let her fall over the communion rail." Green Carnival beads landed on the Pope's pointy hat. They looked interesting, but he took them off and tossed them to two college boys on the street below. Norma told him the two boys should have opened their pants. He frowned and said sternly, "This is not Carnival!"

I said, "It is not Laughingyette either," but the Pope did not hear me ~ he was gone to find Jesus.

Norma looked past my forehead, and talked of far-ranging things.

The Pope returned without Jesus. He was balancing fresh drinks, and passed them round the table. "He can not be found in this wicked den," said The Pope, handing me a Wild Turkey neat with an ice-water back.

When we looked up from our drinks we saw Him again. He was waving from our old balcony seats across the street. We waved back. He lifted his naked arms heavenward. His loincloth flapped in the whiskey-flavored air. The man with the camera jumped and shouted, "Your cross, your cross, show us your cross!"

Jesus looked down and bellowed: "Don't you know what holiday this is? It is Easter, I have no cross!" 

Atop the Presbyter, NOLa,
the year after Katrina.
When I wore a younger man's beard.
The Pope, assorted communion-rail leaners, and other followers passing on the street below shouted,"Is it Carnival?" 

It wasn't.  It was Easter on the River of Bourbon Street ~ a long time ago.


Copyright, 2020, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved
(A lesser version of this story first appeared in the mid 1990s)

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LEJ.org ~ wearing an older man's beard
Lagniappe du Jour, Today!

French Quarter Festival


click link above for 2020 cyber-fest



CANCELED Tentatively 

Go here For 
If you wish to read any month's column go to www.LEJ.org anytime. 

They are posted on the first of each month and polished for the next few years.
LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
~ Hosted on GOOGLE Blogger ~
and historically at 
Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans,
publication of the
It is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
Archives: www.LEJ.org

Β© 2020, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
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